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Bulldogs ranked top 50 nationally

Puerto Rico, here we come.

Bearden Varsity Boys Basketball team — ranked in the top 50 nationally by MaxPreps because it’s uniquely talented at guard with depth, tons of experience and a top-four state finish last season — is looking for tough competition beyond the continental United States.

“We're going to a Thanksgiving tournament in Puerto Rico,” said BHS head coach Mark Blevins. “Supposed to be the five top teams on the island, a team out of L.A. and a team out of Florida.

“I want to spend every single second with this group, because this is such a unique group,” added Blevins, whose roster has dominated East Tennessee the past two season en route to consecutive Class AAA state tourneys. “They're highly motivated kids.”

The Dawgs are coming off a stellar 32-3 campaign last season while winning every tourney it played before state, “the best season in the history of the school.”

Returning eight of its top 10 players, Bearden defeated Christ School (Arden, N.C.) — also top 50-ranked nationally by MaxPreps — 65-58 in a three-quarter scrimmage at BHS Nov. 9.

“We've got decent depth, our wings are very good —Rico [White], Ty [Greene], Austin [Weida], DeQuan [Wright]. And Dion [Fair] is going to do a super job at point,” Blevins said. “In the post, I think Drew [Standifer] is going to have a sensational year. Spence [Peake], Will [Winton] are going to be big-time contributors.

“They're experienced, they know how to handle things,” Blevins added. “On top of last year, they had a good summer, too. ... They all come every day, they take a real business approach to everything.

“You don't have to motivate them, they're already motivated when they get on the court."

Joining All-Region 2-AAA honorees White, Greene and Fair in the starting lineup are Standifer at post, while Winton and Spence "will flip-flop in the post."

As for depth stepping up in the clutch, “Austin and DeQuan have won games for us when Ty and Rico are off,” Blevins said. “Spence and Will have won games when the wings were off.”

The team's leadership — White, Greene and Fair — “are very solid citizens, and for the rest of us that really helps. Including academics.”

Greene (16.3 points per game last season), perhaps the team's top perimeter shooting threat and recent University of South Carolina-Upstate signee, “is the hardest worker I've ever coached, ever,” Blevins said.

White (13.4 points per last season), probably the team's top all-around scoring threat who has grown three inches in one year (now 6-foot-4), “works so hard,” Blevins said. “He probably improves more year to year.”

Fair, Blevins said, “Is a great floor leader, sees the floor probably better than anyone we have” who is "”ne of the top three points guards I've coached here all around, defense and offense.”

Also, “He's probably the best penetrator we've got,” Blevins added.

With Bearden reaching state semifinals last year, as opposed to losing in opening round state play in 2009, “It was better to make it to a higher level, to see how much harder it gets,” Fair said.

Though Blevins said Greene and White back up Fair at point, junior guard Charlie Bain will “get some playing time at point. And possibly a freshman, we may play Isaiah Campbell a little at point.”

Blevins said Weida, a back-up wing, probably has made the biggest improvement since last season. “Austin's one of our best shooters, one of our best defenders,” Blevins said. “I think Drew Standifer is going to be a force to be reckoned with, I think he's improved quite a bit.”

“Will can kinda write his own ticket, tremendous athletic ability,” Blevins added. “With more aggresiveness, he's going to be an All-District player.”

As for Peake, “This is the best condition he's ever been in,” Blevins said, adding that Wright “is the best athlete we have.”

Jordan Wall, a 6-foot-3 sophomore forward, returns after contributing off the bench last year.

Assistant coach is Mitch Carter.


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